The craft distillery industry has been going through quite a boom. As of August 2018, there were 1,835 active craft distilleries operating in the United States, the Western and Southern regions holding the bulk of those distilleries. The Midwest makes up 19.4% of that total. And one of those distilleries is Two James Spirits in Detroit, Michigan.
My Discovery of Two James Spirits
My introduction to Two James was in 2015 while I was working in Detroit on the movie Batman vs. Superman. On my weekends I would head out to bars, restaurants, breweries, and in this case a distillery to see what the city had to offer. On a nice and sunny Saturday afternoon, I headed to Corktown to take a tour and have a few drinks. The tour consisted of our guide, three people, a dog, and myself. The distillery is small with the still predominantly displayed in the center and barrels stacked up along the walls surrounding the still. No matter how big the distillery is, they make some amazing liquor. The bar and tasting room is a great place to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. Then if you get hungry, head across the street to Slows BBQ for some amazing food.
History of Two James Spirits
Two James opened in 2013 in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown, founded by college buddies Pete Bailey and Dave Landrum along with the late, great distilling consultant Dave Pickerell. Bailey and Landrum have set out to produce high quality eco-friendly handmade spirits and sourcing local agricultural products. Like most craft distilleries, they are putting their own twist on classic spirits. The distillery itself is small with an amazing tasting room/bar and an awesome, friendly staff. They have a well-rounded and innovative product lineup. A few of my favorites are Dr. Bird Jamacian rum, Johnny Smoking Gun whiskey, and Old Cockney gin.
Two James Spirits – J. Riddle Peated Bourbon
One of their more interesting spirits, in my opinion, is the J. Riddle Peated Bourbon. Peated bourbons are a rarity but there are a few other producers; Kings County Distillery and Liberty Pole Spirits. This particular peated bourbon has a relatively high mash bill of Michigan corn at 79% with 21% peated Scottish barley. The whiskey is then aged in 53-gallon new American oak barrels and bottled at 91 proof, 45.5%.
J. Riddle Peated Bourbon Tasting Notes
This peated bourbon is odd but in a good way. It’s odd in the sense that I have never tasted a bourbon that has a peaty aroma. The peat is not overpowering at all but it is there and gives a subtle smokiness on the nose and the palate.
Nose: Wet oak, leather, cardboard, maple syrup, a hint of smoke
Taste: Sweet, vegetal, green, slight vanilla, celery, dry
Try it in a Cocktail
I drank this neat quite a bit. Even at 91 proof, this is a great sipping bourbon, but I had to try it out in a cocktail. I went with a Manhattan/Rob Roy cocktail due to the peaty, scotch-like quality of J. Riddle.
Riddle Me Roy Cocktail Recipe
What you’ll need
- 2 oz J. Riddle Peated Bourbon
- 1 oz Martini Reserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Combine everything in a mixing glass with one large cube.
- Stir until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Where to Buy It
I happen to come across the bottle at Barkeeper in Silverlake, CA. They have a well-curated selection of spirits and very knowledgable staff. In case you can’t find this at your local stores, I did a quick check and found it online in a few stores, Mission Liquor and Binny’s.